Red shirts and red faces. For the people leading the “Sons of Shankly” supporters group, it has been a very uncomfortable couple of days. Video footage was leaked onto YouTube of a singer on stage at their end of the organisation’s end of season party leading a large crowd in a chant about the Munich Air Disaster. The group issued an apology a couple of days ago, but this apology raised more questions that it answered. The apology ran as follows:

Spirit of Shankly (SOS) is aware that video footage has been posted on the internet from the SOS End of season party on 24th May 2009. This footage shows an unscheduled performance which the SOS Events Commitee had no prior knowledge of. The Events Committee will endeavour to increase back-stage security for future events to ensure impromptu performances like this do not happen again. We are sincerely sorry for anybody who has been offended by this footage, and we do not condone such behaviour.

Unfortunately, this “apology” is simply not good enough. This was an official SoS  function, and the film (which is not going to be reproduced upon here) shows the singer standing in front of an  SoS flag as he starts the chant. The excuse – and it is an excuse rather than an explanation – that this was “unscheduled” and they had “no prior knowledge” that it was going to happen is, frankly, pathetic for reasons so self-evident that they don’t even really warrant any further comment, other than to say that if you hang your flag on a stage and someone gets up and sings in front of it and your crowd joins in, then the responsibility for those actions lies at your door. It is being done in your name.

Moreover, it has been two and a half weeks since this actually happened. SoS only issued an apology as soon as it was leaked into the public domain, and it is doubtful that it would have even been mentioned had this not happened. If they feel it necessary to apologise about it now, why did they not do so at the time? A message immediately afterwards, before they were publicly embarrassed by it, might have at least indicated that their apology was not a whitewash. As it stands, however, the suspicion lingers that they don’t really give a damn whether SoS members sing songs about Munich unless they’re caught doing it. “Not In My Name” has to mean exactly that, not “Not In My Name If Anyone Finds Out About It”.

Readers may be wondering why I am particularly angry about this, but there are reasons for it. For one thing, SoS is at the heart of the nearest thing that there is to rid Liverpool Football Club of Gillett and Hicks. They have a relatively high profile in the media, and this incident has tarred their reputation and the reputation of those that would work with them in trying to work productively towards ousting this movement. Managing to discredit themselves like this only suits their detractors, and this video will be used against them every time they try to push their other messages from now on.

More seriously than this is the recurring issue of the American would be shock jock Steve Cohen. As many of you remember, Cohen faced widespread condemnation for his comments about the Hillsborough on the twentieth anniversary of the tragedy a couple of months ago. SoS was, perhaps unsurprisingly, outraged as his assertions, as were many of us from a more neutral standpoint. They have even backed a boycott of Cohen by the New York Liverpool Supporters Club. None of this business negates the vacuousness of Cohen’s message and the lies that he spread about what happened on April 15th 1989 through his show, but how seriously are we expected to take their complaints over this sort of thing in the future following this?

Manchester United supporters sniggering about the discomfort of SoS aren’t entirely in the clear. One Manchester United blog (which is not going to be named on here – “the oxygen of publicity”, and all that) posted a particularly stinging criticism of SoS, stating that they were “a disgrace”, but then undermines his argument by trying to locate the moral high ground of singing songs about Heysel while selling these t-shirts. “Singing about Heysel isn’t mocking the dead or poking fun at innocent people who lost their lives”, he says. Rubbish. Singing songs at Liverpool supporters about Heysel twenty-four years after the event is a cheap laugh at Liverpool in exactly the same way that Munich songs are and Hillsborough songs are. We shouldn’t be surprised at this one-up-manship, though. Liverpool and Manchester United supporters acting as if they’re two sides of the same coin is nothing new. They’re the English Old Firm.

The irony, of course, is that constant bickering, side-swiping, insulting and then trying to claim the moral high ground is absolutely not the “Spirit of Shankly”, and neither, for the record, is it the spirit of Matt Busby. Shankly and Busby were Scottish managers in England of similar generations, rivals at their own clubs but close friends away from the game. It is an irony that seems to be lost on the supporters of both clubs that both Shankly and Busby must spin in their graves every time they see their supporters behaving like this.

With full knowledge of the inevitable shit-storm that will follow this being posted, comments will be closed on this article. Seriously, guys. I would have kept them open if I had thought that there was a cat in hell’s chance of a serious debate about this issue, but I already know that it will descend into a self-awareness free slanging match of the, “No, you’re ten times worse than us,”, “No you’re ten times worse than us” variety, with a few people pitching in to call me a cunt and accusing me of “lazy journalism” into the bargain, so if you want to argue about it, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Many apologies to the regular readers of this site that may have wished to comment on this subject and visitors that did want to discuss it in a sensible manner.